Friday, June 27, 2014
The Good, The Bad and Balance
Earlier this week we were at the park having a good time connecting and re-connecting with new and old friends alike. At some point Lamp informs me she needs to use the bathroom. I pick her up and off we go. A few paces from our table a girl--think older teenager--catches a glimpse of Lamp and her face collapses. Furrowed eyebrows, dropped jaw, head askew.... the works. Just imagine the look on your face if you were watching someone run over a kitty. That's the look she had on her face. Because it was so grossly exaggerated I brushed it off and keep walking. As we enter the bathroom I hear a loud female voice say, Oh no! What's wrong with your daughter??
Startled, I turn around and see this same teenager from moments before. I have about 2 seconds to surmise that she seems to be mentally challenged in some way but I'm not sure because it's really not obvious. If she does have some sort of cognitive delays I not only need to be addressing the issue of her hurtful words being thrown like rocks at my daughter, but also trying to navigate this situation while being somewhat aware of her own limitations. Trying to collect my thoughts is like trying to collect a bucket of spilled ping pong balls.
Nothing's wrong with her, I smile, She's fine.
Oh no, she says, stepping closer to the point she is actually following us INTO the stall--not just the bathroom, the actual toilet stall. She reaches out and grabs my daughters arm, Her arms...what happened to her arms?
What is going on here? Should I be concerned for our safety because this is starting to feel threatening. Not to mention bizarre. What is GOING ON?
No, no... do not touch her arms please. Nothing is wrong with her. She is fine. We're trying to use the bathroom, please leave us alone. I say as Lamp recoils into my arms. She is clearly upset.
The girl--undeterred--continues talking to us from the next stall over. Loudly. As she's doing her business. Saying things like, Well I guess as long as she's happy.... I just feel SO BAD for her....
If it wasn't for my very bright 3 year old daughter being held captive in this bathroom stall next to me I would have ignored her or left. But I found myself answering with things like, Yep, she's very happy.... You don't need to feel bad for her. We finally booked it out of there and I was just reeling.
Did I handle that well? Was I protective enough of Lamp? I felt so trapped, what if that had become physical for some reason? Should I have found her parents or whoever she was with? What was that?
That was weird enough on it's own. Then about 30 minutes later a little girl walks up to my friend--who she presumes to be Lamps mom as she's standing right next to her--and again points and says, I feel SO BAD for her having to be in that chair all the time. I watch as my friend Molly handles the situation and handles it well I might add for a few seconds, before it's clear we've got another pity party cling-on. This girl is quite a bit younger than the our bathroom stalker, but very similar in her tone, comments and approach. It is uncanny. Over and over again, I feel so bad! She's stuck in that chair! Oh her hands! How Sad! We try talking to her and explaining that she doesn't need to feel bad for her, she's a happy girl, she can get out of her chair, etc. All the while Lamp looks on taking this in. Finally, I ask the girl to leave.
Two super similar and very odd experiences in one day... there's no more eloquent way to say it, that was some weird shiz. (fake mormon swear)
I have tried to plan and be prepared for so many different scenarios but the reality is I'm constantly winging it. Constantly trying to stop the boat from sinking all the while there are new holes and cracks by the minute. I didn't even mention the group of boys I approached and said, You guys it's not nice to point and stare... I'm pretty sure you wouldn't like it if someone did that to you. For the record, they agreed. It's been a while since we've had a day as weird and rough as that.
Sometimes I still can't believe my not-yet-4 year old has to learn how to deal with stuff like this. I admire the coping skills she has developed at such a tender age--she is very good at ignoring pointing and staring children while holding her head high and continuing on her way. For a while I thought she just didn't notice people pointing and staring. But she knows. And I know she knows. Recently she has started expressing her desire to 'be like everyone else.' She asks why she's not like everyone else. We know our answers do little good, but we try anyway because we can't change the circumstances, but we can talk and we can listen. Lamp tells us she wants to do what other kids do. We remind her that while sometimes she can't do what other kids do, sometimes she gets to do extra special things that other kids don't get to do. Like the time she was invited backstage to feed the dolphins at Sea World. Limb difference perks. If you've read The Fault in Our Stars, you know what I'm talking about. Life is not fair. Personally I believe it's not supposed to be fair. However I do believe there is balance from time to time. The day after that weird park drama we were met with balance.
We spent the following day in Provo--hiking the Y, touring BYU, seeing old friends. My girl Susan of Freshly Picked reached out and invited us to her office. She has never met Lamp and I knew she'd want to meet the her. We were on our way to see some other friends, so I assured the husband that we were just stopping to say hi and we'd be in and out.
Let me just pause to clarify something... Lamp, she's full of sass. This is mostly a good thing. But sometimes when people really want to meet her, she's not having it. She will not fake it, or be polite for polite's sake. So I prep her, Lamp, we're going to go meet the nice lady who gave you some Moccs. Her name is Susan. She's really nice and fancy (always a selling point with Lamp...so I just tell her this whether it's true or not. But of course Susan is fancy.) Make sure you tell her thank you. After all the kindness Susan and her company has showed us, I would be horrified if Lamp was being a little sass-a-frass.
Lamp and Susan, I guess you could say they hit it off. I'm not going to deny that it might have had something to do with Susan letting Lamp hand pick (OK foot pick) some new moccs. Oh my gosh, no! we kept saying, We did not come for this.
I know, Susan assured.
But it wasn't just the moccasins. Lamp was receiving the royal treatment--being carried around, asked questions, loved on and in general being adored just the way she is. Lamp is no stranger to positive attention, but as mentioned above she deals with some pretty heavy stuff as well--physical limitations and social scrutiny most kids her age don't have to confront on a daily basis.
As I was trying to tell Susan Oh my gosh, you don't need to be doing this... Lamp says, Mom she's just being nice to me. Let her be nice to me. A sentiment she reiterated in the car after we left.
So that's what I did. I backed off, and I let Susan "be nice" to her. Partially because Susan wanted to and partially because Lamp needed it. Call it a limb difference perk, call it kindness or generosity, love or all of the above but today I call it balance. Thank God for balance and the people who deliver it.